“This one kid, Thomas, could just about pick up his bat and throw a ball, but he really was always trying hard,” said Mr. Rizzo. “But I told him he was going to pitch that day, and he was so excited and he did really good for a kid that couldn’t throw really well. I saw him a couple of years ago, and he started telling me what an impact I had on him, just from letting him pitch that one game. So, Little League leaves a mark on you, it’s pretty cool.”
Beyond baseball, the Rizzo’s have taken on a cause that is very close to their hearts. In 2008, Anthony was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After six months of treatment, he was in remission and could go back to playing baseball. His own diagnosis, plus the loss of his grandmother to cancer, inspired Anthony to start the “Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation”, whose mission is to raise money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families battling the disease.
“Every Tuesday of the month that Anthony has a home stand, he goes to the hospital, and he doesn’t like anybody with cameras or video coming. He just likes going in there and walking through the cancer ward, handing kids signed hats, and just sitting down talking to them,” said Mr. Rizzo. “Just to go with him, and watch that, it’s pretty moving.”
Reflecting on both his time as a Little League player and coach, Mr. Rizzo is in awe that he got to be in the position of those that he and his friends idolized growing up.
“Growing up, there were guys in my town, and you look back, and they were legendary when we were little kids,” said Mr. Rizzo. “Little League coaches were like gods, you looked up to them, and just to be in the same group with those guys, it’s an honor to coach Little League to me.”
The George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award, established in 1980, is presented annually to the parents of a Major League Baseball player who were actively involved in their son’s Little League experience.
“Parents like John and Laurie are the reason that Little League Baseball and Softball has developed into the world’s largest youth sports organization,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “It is thanks to the millions of dedicated parents who put in the time, effort, and support of their children, and all those involved in the Little League program, that makes the Little League experience truly special. We are proud to honor John and Laurie with this prestigious honor as they represent all of the values that this award was created around.”
More than recognition of one set of parents annually, the Parents of the Year Award is designed to be a symbolic recognition of the millions of mothers and fathers who each year respond to the call of parental duty and help provide a wholesome healthy arena for leadership training for the children of their respective communities.
The award is named for former President Bush and his wife Barbara, who were volunteers during their children’s early years in Texas, and continue to support Little League today. The award is presented during the Little League Baseball®World Series, held each August in South Williamsport, Pa.